What did you learn at Buddhists Geek 2012?

Most of the participants listed themselves as ‘Hybrid’ or had no designation (like me). Only some identified themselves as ‘Buddhist.’   All the several dozen participants I met and all the presenters were clearly active meditators and all could be described as, at minimum, ‘Buddhist Friendlies’ (my terminology). 

Steven Batchelor, one of the key presenters, described ‘Do It Yourself Buddhism.’  In the well known metaphor, the dharma is the boat that helps a practitioner get over the river to reach enlightenment.  Batchelor advocated using whatever is available to construct your own raft. He also advocated training in a specific tradition first, which I have not done and am not likely to do at this point.  Nonetheless, I resonated with his description of the DIY process, and realized that this blog and its trail of ideas, techniques, and values represents my still evolving ‘Do It Yourself’ meditation practice.  

I also realized from talking to several participants who have changed traditions that even a hard core traditional path follower is still a ‘DIY’ practitioner in two respects.  Only the practitioner can do it, no one else can.  And if one tradition doesn’t work out, at least in our culture, participants can and will switch to another, or start their own ‘DIY’ practice.

This wonderful group is lead by Vince Horn.  He has done over 250 podcasts interviewing Buddhist teachers, writers, and researchers.  For more information, go to buddhistgeeks.com.  I already purchased a ticket for next year’s conference.  This is a highly recommended resource for seekers of all backgrounds.

What are edges of your current practice?

One is trying to bring more of the flow of images/pictures into my conscious experience.  Words, feelings, and bare sensations are my primary conscious streams of mental activity. For you it may be more images and feelings.  So when I can invite the images to the rountable of conscious experience, this human being can experience altered states compared to the usual baseline.  This is an activity I’m exploring–we are exploring–this whole self is exploring.   And impersonal analytic thought is still gathering ‘data points’ of experience and isn’t saying much yet.

Another area is exploring the boundaries between conscious and unconscious or subconscious mental activity.   One very clear boundary is at the time of first waking up.  Literally, the reality tunnel of the five basic senses wakes up, then after some pauses, with no conscious effort, various ‘bundles of thought subjects’ arise.   So I’m setting intentions to see, hear, and feel internally what is happening in the background as those thought bundles rise up.  Again, still under exploration.

 

What is the role of medition and pragmatic practice in your life?

It is a part of, not apart from, but not the whole of living a great life.  At different times and during different experiences the importance of daily practice has fluctuated.  And over time the ideas, techniques, values and skills simply become integrated into daily life.  The distinction between a ‘formal sit’ and ‘daily life’ just falls away.

Sort of like when I was getting sober decades ago and learning how to live life without a drink it took effort, time, and practice.  The new habits of sober life took a while to master and then just became who I was becoming.  Same for the pragmatic practices and views described on this blog.

Can you say more about the selfing process?

The ‘selfing process’ is a mental activity that represents the whole of the body, heart, and mind.  It starts when we wake up and keeps on going during the day.  It is the stream of words, pictures and feelings, all linked, repeatedly, to the pronoun “I.”  If you are mindfully watching it and switching pronouns, you see the mental processes as they are happening and at the same time experience it. For this pragmatic practitioner the ‘selfing process’ is the ‘ghost in the machine.,’   And it is how the machine (the whole body, heart, and mind) knows that it exists and relates to the world.   Very pragmatic and useful that selfing process!  Thank you Karma.  Glad this human being has one..well, actually several…when learning how to switch up the pronouns!

What is the voluntary REM technique?

Put your attention onto an area of muscle tension or twitching. Then initiate voluntary REM. Move your eyes left and right, up and down, round and round (both ways), while keeping split attention and focus on the area of muscle tension. For me this practice often leads to muscle relaxation and comfort, with no conscious awareness of the thoughts or images attached to the original area of focus.

Sometimes the thoughts or images do arise. Then I use any of the other practices to transform these thoughts — or not — and just mindfully observe.

Another variation I use is to add the self directed EFT, the “Even though technique…,” while doing the voluntary REM.

And I do these with any or all of the four voices. It is hard to stay stuck using this mix of practices!

What is the finger signal technique?

Establish a twitch of the thumb to mean ‘yes’ and the twitch of the second finger to mean ‘no.’

Then, ask your unconscious selfing processes any question that can be answered with a yes or a no. One of your fingers will twitch, indicating a response.

I use finger signaling frequently, and often when in the we voice.

It is especially useful because it provides the unconscious mental processes another way to communicate with the conscious self in a fashion that can be understood by the conscious self.

I learned this technique while studying self-hypnosis. It’s another technique for the toolkit.

How have these practices helped you?

Last summer I learned (from routine screening) that I had experienced a silent heart attack. Subsequent investigation confirmed and showed damage.

Lots of fear was triggered.

At one point, I went into the we voice and asked what are we afraid of? Dying? No.

Then what? Answer came back, in the impersonal voice, dying alone.

Oh. What can we do about it?

Answer popped into my head. Oh, nothing…but when the time comes we will all join hands and go over the waterfall together! I (personal voice) just broke out laughing. In stitches for a few minutes.

Frankly, I (personal voice) have been at peace with the situation since then.

This one was a “biggie,” but most of life’s challenges are not. I routinely use the we voice just to check with all my parts and to see what’s going on.

It is an honest, open, and intimate experience.

A friend at dinner the other night spontaneously said that she thought I was awakening.

Could be, at least to a small extent.

I, we, it, and best thinking are all certainly happier and suffer a lot less. Something is changing!

How does your practice relate to Buddhist meditation practices?

Loosely.

Buddhist mindfulness meditation techniques train the brain to dis-embed or dissociate the arising word and image thoughts from the conscious observing part of the brain.

You learn to experience whatever your brain produces without adding any more of the thought stream to it. You cultivate bare attention to the live feed of the five senses and the live feed of the inner dialogue and imaging.

Extremely, extremely useful and a necessary skill. My practices presuppose skill with setting up and experiencing mindfulness and bare attention.

Similarly, Buddhist concentration practices, whether narrowly or broadly focused, create positive mental states by temporarily suppressing negative thoughts and feelings from arising.

Buddhist vipassana or insight practices encourage you to confirm the wisdom in your own subjective experience of the Buddha’s views on impermanence (anicca), not-self (anatta), and suffering (dukkha) and how to reduce suffering.

Important point: You aren’t encouraged to do practices, investigate, and discuss and draw your own maps. You are persistently invited to agree with the Buddha’s views. While I found them to be true…they are only partially so.

They are some of the characteristics of existence but not the whole..so for me it was constraining and limiting. Thus arose this exercise in map making of the inner territory being experienced and explored. Something was missing. Over time I added all these other pieces for actually transforming the arising patterns and helping to use them to solve daily life challenges.

This creates the space to then return to mindfully observing whatever is arising and passing away. In many ways, these patterns are similar in intent (but not the same) as Buddhist kindness meditations.

Another distinction. I do not sharply compartmentalize the use of mindfulness and concentration meditation and self directed, language based change patterns. A ‘sit’ or in my case a ‘lie-down’ will encompass both. When a negative experience is arising, I may chose just to observe, experience and add nothing…or employ one of the language change patterns presented here.

Sitting for a long time with ‘dark night’ experiences is not necessary or skillful in this practitioner’s experience.

Also, choice of conjunctions matters. For me it is both/and, not either/or, to get the greatest reduction in unnecessary suffering and greatest increase in useful joyful happiness.

What is the “Even though…” language pattern reframe?

It’s a language pattern I frequently use when I’m in the we voice. I also use it when helping others.

The structure is: “Even though I [negative thought, image, or feeling], I [positive thought, feeling or image].

Equally useful is to substitute ‘we’ for ‘I.’

This is an extremely effective language pattern. It is also really simple and easy to use.

The first phrase paces the underlying or presenting ‘problem’ issue, and the second phrase links or leads to a positive thought and feeling.

In NLP, it is the structure of a basic reframe.

In recent years it has also become the foundational language pattern for EFT (Emotional Freedom Training).

It is a simple language pattern, which you and I can use to help ourselves and others. It is one of the most effective language patterns I know for voluntary, conscious, self-directed personal change.

What is “asking for the positive intent of a part?”

When you are in the we voice pattern, one very useful change technique is to ask each part for its positive intent.

This is a presupposition (can’t be proved, just experienced) that allows previously unacceptable or rejected thought patterns to ‘have a place at the table of conscious awareness’ in the front of the brain.

Then a conversation can follow, with one part being the chair of the committee or meeting, about how to achieve the positive intent of the thought/part without hurting the rest of the whole self.

This is a language pattern from NLP. It was taught as a conversational technique for helping others. I’ve found you can use it on yourself from within the ‘we’ voice with great positive benefits to feeling and behavior.

In fact, ANY conversational pattern you use with some one else can be used within the we voice. You’ve already helped others many times, now you just establish one part of the we voice to do so with the hurting parts of the whole self.

And remember to always return to the personal (“I”) voice when that work is finished.